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Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Greatest Identity Crisis In History

Ron Cantor says Messianic Jews are the most hated people on earth. That can’t be fun.

Much has been written about the difficulty of living between two countries (not to mention while living for another world entirely). This particular exchange of ideas occurred elsewhere, but is too relevant, useful and thought-provoking to be buried in a thread of hundreds of comments.

I’m sharing it here with permission.

Challenged by a reader who insists that all ethnic Jews are allowed the right of return to Israel, and that all one needs to qualify is a single Jewish grandparent, a Christian Jew and fellow blogger responds:
“That’s not the reality on the ground. Jews who embrace Y’shua as the Messiah and who are ethnic Jews (like myself, Jewish mother) are generally denied aliyah. The oleh can always hire an attorney and fight the denial, but that is cost prohibitive for most olim, such as myself, seeking aliyah.”
A second reader, “Sam”, replies that he sees nothing wrong with such a policy, and that Israel “pretty much has to be the one refuge for Jewish folks who follow the law, or at least try to … I think it dates back to a centuries old fear of what the Christians might do if they are a majority”.

If Israel remains a closed door for some ethnic Jews, are their long-term prospects on American soil any better? Much depends on how the Jew is perceived by his fellow Americans, and our Messianic friend injects some realism into the discussion of whether a Jew can or should be “American first” in his outlook:
“We have been scattered to the winds. Approximately 5-6 million Jews still reside in the US. We have, by and large, not settled down and behaved ourselves as we were admonished, but have rather inserted ourselves in every nook and cranny of this culture and have behaved (generally) like an obnoxious guest who keeps putting his feet on the table and who everyone wishes would just leave.

How can a Jew, cultural or otherwise, honestly claim that he is an American first? It’s a specious claim, at best. Always has been, and always will be. Our people don’t read, have become illiterate, and don’t even understand their own history from a proper perspective, let alone history generally (cf. Isaiah 29; Jeremiah 29).

I am not fooling myself or anyone else ... I am a Jew who is temporarily residing in someone else’s country. I am a sojourner, here, an alien, a guest. The sooner we admit that truth and behave ourselves accordingly the better. Sooner or later, G-d is going to use every nation on this earth to remind us who we are, why we are really here, and to Whom we belong. That day can’t come soon enough.

All the name-changing, assimilating, hoping-to-be-embraced-and-loved-by-everyone, G-d-forsaking Cathy Youngs in the world are not going to forestall that one little bit. Mark my words.

I swear, we continue to be our own worst enemy. G-d help us.”
The second commenter replies that America is most certainly a place for a Jew, even a follower of Christ, and that Jews who find themselves disliked in America are generally of the sort who are seen as not having America’s best interests in mind.

Our Jewish friend disagrees, and points out that a Jew is always a Jew:
“When it comes right down to it, Jews are Jews first, and Jews may try to deny it all they want, as loud as they want, and as often as they want, but a Jew is a Jew no matter which country he resides in, and when a Jew constantly puts his own interests ahead of and to the detriment of the interests of his gracious hosts (and I would agree that America has been a most gracious host), then his Jewishness will be viewed as the culprit, not his ‘anti-[insert country]’ leanings, philosophies, or behaviors.

Even the Bible (which is what ultimately underlies my points) recognizes that we are Jews first. In Esther, Mordechai is known as Mordechai the Jew, not Mordechai the Persian. Esther talks about ‘her people’, and she is not referring to Persians. Daniel, and his three companions are identified as Hebrew youths, never Babylonian. Moses, growing up in Egypt and trained in the Egyptian court, is not Egyptian, and takes exception when he witnesses an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, fleeing shortly thereafter only to return with the message, ‘let my people [the Jews] go’.

In the book of Acts chapter two, though a great number of Jews are gathered from a variety of nations, it is clear they are Jews, and are referred to as such, no matter which language they spoke or in which country they were currently residing (cf. Acts 2:5-12):

‘And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language … And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?

Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs — we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of G-d.’

Not Parthians, Medes, and Elamites first ... but Jews, first and last. The mere passage of time will not change this incontrovertible truth, no matter how much you would like to deny it.

If we had not insisted on assimilating and continuing to deny who we are, Jews first, we would have also remembered that were aliens and strangers in a strange land as long as we were outside eretz Israel and perhaps remembered to seek the best interests of our host nations. The problem is that we (most especially the Reform movement) worked hard to make every place we went a ‘little Israel’. This was a grave mistake.

Mordechai, Esther, Daniel, etc. served the countries, the citizens of those countries, and the best interests of both without attempting to remake those countries in their own image or the image of Israel, while remaining very much who they were and who G-d called them to be: a light unto the nations.

If you’re Jewish, Sam, the more you try to hide or deny it, the more it will out you and negatively define you. History supports me in this.

How many Jews, I wonder, declared themselves Germans first and had medals pinned to their chests for serving in WWI? And which Jews of which nation were leading the herd in assimilation and so-called emancipation? Which Jews were calling synagogues ‘Temples’ and why? Which Jews were calling Berlin the ‘New Jerusalem’ and why? How’d that work out for the German Jew? The French Jew? The Polish Jew? The Hungarian Jew? The Austrian Jew?

Our people are suffering from the greatest identity crisis in history and continuing to deny who we are is only exacerbating the situation. With all due respect, Sam, please go and study. The alternative is to keep on living in a fool’s paradise.”
The greatest identity crisis in history indeed.

Miraculously preserved for almost two millennia, the Jewish nation’s identity crisis is to end with mourning and bitterness:
“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.”
That day is coming. But for now, our Messianic friend is right: from the world’s perspective, a Jew is a Jew no matter which country he resides in.

It’s only Jews that don’t seem to know this.

3 comments :

  1. I think that this person has got it wrong. In general people and societies will discriminate not necessarily because of your belief system but more because of how that system causes you to differentiate yourself in external ways. That mostly involves how you dress differently, behave differently, etc.. Everyone should recognize that that is not a problem for Christians because daily externals are not worth anything under that system as taught by Christ and do not count towards anything but what is important is your invisible interior life, which should result in unobtrusive Christian action. So, given this obviously true and profound insight into human nature it should come as no surprise to anyone if they elicit reactions by valuing externals equally to or more than internals. This will then elicit these erroneous complaints and laments when human reality is encountered. Note that this applies to any religious and ethnic settings where a deliberate distinction based on externals is the norm. Perhaps Christ wanted to drive home a point in that regard?

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  2. I think he's right on the nose, Q.

    Can you think of any other ethno-religious identity for which there exists a unique word in nearly every language for hating its adherents? I can't. ("Islamophobia" doesn't count: it's newly coined and it's moronic.)

    If I dislike blacks, New Zealanders or Hispanics, I'm a boring, garden-variety racist.

    If I dislike Jews, I'm an anti-Semite. In pre-WWII Germany, I'd be displaying Judenhass. In post-WWI Germany (to make me sound more rational and scientific in my racism), I'd be merely Antisemitismus. In France, I'm showing antisémitisme. In Russia, I'm an антисемит and in Mandarin I'm a 反犹份子.

    There's a word for it in MANDARIN!

    See the problem? All over the world, Jews are anathema to far too many. That's not only because orthodox Jews dress funny and differentiate themselves in external ways (admittedly, they do, but they are only a tiny segment of the Jewish population in the U.S., most of whom are secular and frequently indistinguishable from Anglo-Saxons). And yet the animosity even to secular Jews in Europe is intensifying, and it will surely do so in North America as more Muslims immigrate here.

    Further, while Christians are to be inoffensive in general, there are circumstances in which being "invisible" and "unobtrusive" would be quite the wrong approach.

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    1. What you are describing is the end result of a long cumulative effect of the differentiation that I was talking about. The differentiation by externals comes first and that does not only include garb but everything else that is then coming into focus concerning the "stranger" in your midst like behavior, business dealings, human social actions and interactions, etc.. If by chance or by drive you are then more successful than the rest of society by your differentiation and self isolation that generates resentment and eventually hate. In other words you are not perceived as making a genuine attempt to want to fit in. There are plenty of other examples of this in other cultures just look where a subgroup is perceived as more successful than the host population. The converse can also be true where a subgroup is perceived as inferior as, e.g., for gypsies.

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